Planning a Lake Como day trip? This breathtaking destination in northern Italy is known for its stunning scenery, charming towns and villages, and luxurious villas.
Despite being a popular spot for tourists, Lake Como maintains an air of exclusivity and sophistication, making it a must-visit for those seeking a touch of glamour and elegance.
In this comprehensive guide, we’ll take you on a journey through Lake Como and provide you with everything you need to know to plan the perfect Lake Como day trip. From exploring the lake by boat to discovering its picturesque towns and villages, hiking through its scenic trails to dining on delicious local cuisine, we’ve got you covered.
So, whether you’re a first-time visitor or a seasoned traveller, join us as we explore the best of Lake Como and discover why it’s a destination that should be on everyone’s travel bucket list.
Getting To Lake Como
Getting to Lake Como is relatively easy, with several transportation options available to suit different preferences and budgets. Here are the main ways to reach Lake Como:
Driving to Lake Como
If you’re coming from Milan or other nearby cities, driving to Lake Como is a convenient option. The lake is accessible from the A9 motorway, which runs from Milan to the Swiss border. Keep in mind that traffic can be heavy during peak season, so plan accordingly.
Taking the Train to Lake Como
Another option is taking the train to one of the towns around Lake Como. The Milan-Como line offers regular train services, and you can disembark at stations such as Como San Giovanni, Como Nord Lago, or Varenna-Esino, depending on your destination. From there, you can take a bus or taxi to your final destination.
Taking a Bus to Lake Como
Several bus companies operate services to Lake Como from Milan, Bergamo, and other nearby cities. Buses are often a more affordable option than trains, and they also offer more frequent services.
Regardless of which transportation option you choose, keep in mind that the best way to explore Lake Como is on foot or by boat, so plan your travel accordingly to allow for ample time to explore the beautiful sights and scenery that the lake has to offer.
Exploring Lake Como by Boat
Exploring Lake Como by boat is one of the best ways to experience the stunning beauty of this destination. Here are the main options for exploring the lake by boat:
Lake Como Boat Tours
Lake Como boat tours are a popular option for those who want a hassle-free way to explore the lake’s main attractions. Several companies offer boat tours of varying durations, from a few hours to a full day. These tours often include stops at picturesque towns and villages, historic villas and gardens, and scenic viewpoints.
Renting a Boat on Lake Como
If you prefer a more independent way to explore the lake, renting a boat is a great option. Several companies offer motorboat rentals, and you can choose from a range of boats depending on your preferences and budget.
Keep in mind that you’ll need a valid boating license to rent a boat, and the lake’s traffic can be heavy during peak season, so it’s essential to have some boating experience.
Best Routes for Exploring Lake Como by Boat
There are several routes to explore Lake Como by boat, depending on your interests and preferences. Some popular options include the central lake route, which takes you past some of the lake’s most iconic attractions, such as Villa del Balbianello and Bellagio.
Alternatively, you could opt for the northern lake route, which takes you to the charming towns of Colico and Gravedona. If you’re short on time, a quick trip to the town of Varenna is a great option. No matter which route you choose, you’ll be treated to stunning views of the lake and its surroundings.
Visiting Lake Como’s Villas and Gardens
Lake Como is renowned for its beautiful villas and gardens, which are some of the most elegant and luxurious in Italy. Here are some of the must-visit villas and gardens to guarantee the perfect Lake Como day trip:
Villa del Balbianello
Villa del Balbianello is one of the most iconic villas in Lake Como and has been featured in several movies, including the James Bond film Casino Royale. The villa is perched on a promontory overlooking the lake and features beautiful gardens with panoramic views. Guided tours are available, and you can also explore the gardens and terraces at your leisure.
Villa Carlotta is another must-visit villa when planning your Lake Como day trip. The villa is famous for its beautiful gardens, which feature a mix of Italian and English styles.
The gardens are home to several rare and exotic plants, including camellias, azaleas, and rhododendrons. Inside the villa, you can admire a collection of artworks and sculptures, including pieces by Antonio Canova.
Villa Monastero is located in the town of Varenna and dates back to the 12th century. The villa features beautiful gardens with winding paths, fountains, and sculptures. Inside the villa, you can explore several rooms that have been preserved in their original state, including a library and a chapel.
Gardens of Villa Melzi
The Gardens of Villa Melzi are located in the town of Bellagio and are some of the most beautiful gardens in Lake Como. The gardens feature a mix of exotic and native plants, including Japanese maples, azaleas, and rhododendrons. You can also explore the villa, which houses a museum with artefacts and artworks from the Napoleonic era.
These are just a few of the beautiful villas and gardens that Lake Como has to offer. Visiting these stunning attractions is a great way to immerse yourself in the region’s history and culture and experience the beauty of Lake Como firsthand.
Discovering Lake Como’s Towns and Villages
Lake Como’s towns and villages are as charming and picturesque as the lake itself. Here are some of the must-visit destinations in Lake Como:
Como Town is the largest town on the lake and is famous for its beautiful historic centre. The town is home to several notable landmarks, including the stunning Como Cathedral, which dates back to the 14th century.
Other highlights include the Tempio Voltiano, a museum dedicated to the inventor Alessandro Volta, and the Piazza del Duomo, which is lined with elegant buildings and cafes.
Bellagio is often referred to as the “pearl of Lake Como” and is one of the lake’s most charming towns. The town is famous for its narrow streets, elegant villas, and beautiful gardens. Highlights include the Villa Serbelloni, a grand neoclassical villa with beautiful gardens, and the Punta Spartivento, a scenic viewpoint that offers panoramic views of the lake.
Varenna is a charming fishing village located on the eastern shore of Lake Como. The town is famous for its colourful houses, narrow alleys, and a picturesque waterfront.
Highlights include the Castello di Vezio, a medieval castle that offers panoramic views of the lake, and the Villa Monastero, a beautiful villa with stunning gardens.
Menaggio is a picturesque town located on the western shore of Lake Como. The town is known for its elegant villas, charming cafes, and beautiful waterfront promenade. Highlights include the Villa Mylius Vigoni, a historic villa with beautiful gardens, and the Menaggio and Cadenabbia Golf Club, which is one of the oldest golf clubs in Italy.
These are just a few of the charming towns and villages that Lake Como has to offer. Each destination has its unique charm and character, and exploring them is a great way to experience the region’s rich history and culture.
Hiking in Lake Como
Hiking in Lake Como is a great way to experience the region’s beautiful landscapes and natural beauty. Here are some of the best hiking trails in Lake Como:
Monte San Primo
Monte San Primo is the highest peak in the Larian Triangle and offers stunning panoramic views of Lake Como and the surrounding mountains. The trail to the summit is relatively easy and takes around 2-3 hours to complete.
Sentiero del Viandante
The Sentiero del Viandante is a historic trail that dates back to the Roman times and runs along the eastern shore of Lake Como. The trail passes through several charming villages and offers stunning views of the lake and surrounding mountains.
The Rifugio Menaggio trail is a challenging hike that takes you through forests and alpine meadows to the Rifugio Menaggio, a mountain refuge that offers stunning views of the lake and the Alps. The hike takes around 5-6 hours to complete and is recommended for experienced hikers.
These are just a few of the many hiking trails that Lake Como has to offer. Regardless of your hiking experience, there are trails for all levels, from easy scenic walks to challenging mountain climbs. Make sure to bring appropriate footwear and clothing, and always follow the trail markers and safety guidelines.
Dining in Lake Como
Lake Como is famous for its delicious cuisine, which features a mix of Italian and local specialities. Here are some of the best dining options in Lake Como:
Best Restaurants in Lake Como
Lake Como is home to several world-class restaurants that offer delicious food and stunning views of the lake. Some of the best options include the Michelin-starred restaurant La Veranda at the Grand Hotel Tremezzo, which serves gourmet Italian cuisine, and Ristorante Mistral, which offers a mix of traditional and contemporary dishes made with local ingredients.
Local Cuisine to Try in Lake Como
Lake Como is famous for its freshwater fish, such as perch, pike, and trout. One of the most popular dishes is the risotto al pesce persico, a creamy risotto made with freshwater perch. Other local specialities include the polenta taragna, a type of polenta made with buckwheat flour, and the bresaola, a cured beef that is often served with rocket and Parmesan cheese.
Best Wine Tours in Lake Como
Lake Como is home to several wineries that offer wine tours and tastings. Some of the best options include the Fattoria Terrabianca, which produces organic wines and offers guided tours of its vineyards and cellars, and the Cantina Follie, which offers a wide selection of wines from the region.
These are just a few of the dining options that Lake Como has to offer. Whether you’re looking for a fine dining experience or a casual meal with local specialities, Lake Como has something to offer everyone. Don’t forget to try the region’s famous gelato, which is made with fresh ingredients and comes in a range of delicious flavours.
Lake Como Day Trip Shopping
Lake Como is a shopper’s paradise, with plenty of options for those looking to indulge in some retail therapy. Here are some of the best shopping destinations in Lake Como:
Best Shopping Destinations in Lake Como
Como Town is the main shopping destination in Lake Como, with several elegant boutiques and shops lining the streets around the historic centre. Some of the best options include the Como Silk Museum, which sells beautiful silk scarves and fabrics, and the Coin Department Store, which offers a range of fashion and lifestyle products.
Local Specialties to Buy in Lake Como
Lake Como is famous for its silk production, and one of the most popular souvenirs is a silk scarf or tie. Other local specialities include olive oil, wine, and cheese, which you can find at the local markets and shops.
Souvenirs to Bring Back from Lake Como
Lake Como has a range of souvenirs to choose from, including handmade ceramics, leather goods, and traditional Italian candies. Some popular options include the colourful pottery from the town of Bellagio, the handmade leather bags from Como, and the nougat candies from the town of Mandello del Lario.
These are just a few of the shopping options that Lake Como has to offer. Whether you’re looking for luxury fashion or local specialities, Lake Como has something to offer everyone. Don’t forget to take your time and explore the local markets and shops, which offer a unique glimpse into the region’s history and culture.
Swimming and Water Sports in Lake Como
Lake Como is a paradise for water sports enthusiasts and offers a range of activities for those looking to cool off or enjoy some adrenaline-pumping fun. Here are some of the best options for swimming and water sports in Lake Como:
Swimming in Lake Como
Lake Como is renowned for its crystal-clear waters, and swimming is a popular activity during the summer months. Many of the lake’s towns and villages have public beaches and swimming areas, including the Lido di Bellagio, which features a pool and a private beach. Keep in mind that the lake’s water can be chilly, even during the summer, so be prepared with a wetsuit or swim shirt.
Sailing and Windsurfing in Lake Como
Lake Como is a popular destination for sailing and windsurfing, thanks to its steady winds and calm waters. Several rental companies offer sailboats and windsurfing equipment for hire, and you can take lessons if you’re new to the sport. Some of the best locations for sailing and windsurfing include the towns of Domaso and Colico.
Kayaking and Stand-Up Paddleboarding in Lake Como
Kayaking and stand-up paddleboarding are great ways to explore the lake’s beautiful coastline and hidden coves. Several rental companies offer kayaks and stand-up paddleboards for hire, and you can take guided tours if you’re new to the sport. Some of the best locations for kayaking and stand-up paddleboarding include the towns of Menaggio and Varenna.
These are just a few of the water sports activities that Lake Como has to offer. Regardless of your interests and experience level, there’s something for everyone in this beautiful destination. Just remember to follow safety guidelines and be aware of the lake’s currents and weather conditions.
Taking in the Views of Lake Como
Lake Como is renowned for its breathtaking views and stunning landscapes. Here are some of the best ways to take in the beauty of this iconic destination:
Scenic Drives around Lake Como
One of the best ways to take in the views of Lake Como is by taking a scenic drive around the lake. The road that circles the lake is known as the Strada Regina and offers stunning views of the lake and surrounding mountains. Some of the best stops along the way include the charming towns of Bellagio and Varenna, as well as several scenic viewpoints.
Cable Car Rides
Cable car rides are a great way to get a bird’s eye view of Lake Como and its surroundings. The Como-Brunate Funicular takes you from the city of Como to the small town of Brunate, located on a hilltop overlooking the lake. From here, you can enjoy panoramic views of the lake and surrounding mountains.
Hiking Trails with Scenic Views
Hiking trails are a great way to experience Lake Como’s natural beauty up close while taking in the stunning views. Some of the best hiking trails with scenic views include the trail to the summit of Monte San Primo, which offers panoramic views of the lake and the Alps, and the Sentiero del Viandante, which runs along the eastern shore of the lake and offers stunning views of the lake and surrounding mountains.
Boat tours are a popular way to experience the beauty of Lake Como from the water. Several companies offer boat tours of varying durations, from a few hours to a full day. These tours often include stops at picturesque towns and villages, historic villas and gardens, and scenic viewpoints.
These are just a few of the best ways to take in the views of Lake Como. No matter which option you choose, you’re guaranteed to be treated to stunning views of this iconic destination.
Enjoying the Nightlife in Lake Como
Lake Como is not just a destination for natural beauty and outdoor activities – it also has a vibrant nightlife scene. Here are some of the best options for enjoying the nightlife in Lake Como:
Bars and Pubs
Lake Como has a range of bars and pubs where you can enjoy a drink or two after a day of exploring. Some of the best options include the Bar Bellini in the town of Bellagio, which offers a range of cocktails and drinks, and the Birrificio Como, which serves a range of craft beers.
If you’re looking for a more lively atmosphere, Lake Como has several nightclubs where you can dance the night away. Some of the best options include the Lido di Lenno, which hosts regular parties and events, and the Hollywood Club in the town of Moltrasio, which has a large dance floor and a wide selection of drinks.
For those feeling lucky, Lake Como has several casinos where you can try your hand at games of chance. The Casino di Campione is one of the most popular options, located just across the border in Switzerland. It offers a range of table games and slot machines, as well as several bars and restaurants.
These are just a few of the options for enjoying the nightlife in Lake Como. Whether you’re looking for a relaxing drink, a night of dancing, or a bit of gambling, Lake Como has something to offer everyone. Just remember to drink responsibly and have a good time.
Best Time to Visit Lake Como
Lake Como is a popular destination year-round, but the best time to visit depends on your preferences and interests. Here’s a breakdown of the best times to visit Lake Como:
Summer (June to August)
Summer is the peak tourist season in Lake Como, with warm temperatures and long days perfect for outdoor activities like swimming, boating, and hiking. This is also the busiest time of year, with crowds and higher prices. If you’re planning to visit during the summer, it’s recommended to book your accommodation and activities well in advance.
Spring (March to May)
Spring is a great time to visit Lake Como, with milder temperatures and fewer crowds than the summer months. The lake and surrounding landscapes are in bloom, making it a great time for hiking and taking in the natural beauty of the region. However, be prepared for some rainy days during this season.
Autumn (September to November)
Autumn is another great time to visit Lake Como, with cooler temperatures and fewer crowds than the summer months. The lake is surrounded by vibrant autumn foliage, making it a picturesque destination for hiking and scenic drives. This is also the time of year when the region’s wine harvest takes place, with several festivals and events celebrating the season.
Winter (December to February)
Winter is the quietest time of year in Lake Como, with cooler temperatures and shorter days. However, the region has a certain charm during the winter months, with Christmas markets and events in the towns and villages around the lake. The nearby ski resorts also make it a great destination for winter sports enthusiasts.
In conclusion, the best time to visit Lake Como depends on your interests and preferences. Whether you’re looking for outdoor activities, scenic beauty, or cultural events, Lake Como has something to offer all year round.
Accommodation in Lake Como
Lake Como offers a range of accommodation options to suit all budgets and preferences. Here are some of the best options for accommodation in Lake Como:
Luxury Hotels and Resorts
Lake Como is known for its luxurious hotels and resorts, with several five-star options dotted around the lake. These hotels offer top-notch amenities, including spas, swimming pools, and Michelin-starred restaurants. Some of the most popular options include the Grand Hotel Tremezzo, Villa d’Este, and Casta Diva Resort & Spa.
Mid-Range Hotels and Bed and Breakfasts
If you’re looking for a more affordable option, Lake Como has several mid-range hotels and bed and breakfasts. These offer comfortable accommodations with fewer frills but are still well-located and offer great value for money. Some popular options include the Hotel Barchetta Excelsior in Como and the Hotel Belvedere in Bellagio.
Apartments and Villas
For those looking for a bit more privacy and flexibility, Lake Como has several apartments and villas available for rent. These range from small apartments to large villas, and offer a range of amenities depending on your needs. Some of the most popular rental agencies include Lake Como Concepts and Bookings For You.
Campsites and Hostels
If you’re on a tight budget, Lake Como has several campsites and hostels available. These offer basic accommodations at a lower cost, with several located in picturesque towns and villages around the lake. Some popular options include the Camping Village La Riva in Sorico and the Ostello Bello Lake Como in Como.
These are just a few of the best options for accommodation in Lake Como. No matter what your budget or preferences are, you’re sure to find the perfect place to stay in this beautiful destination.
Safety and Practical Tips for Visiting Lake Como
Lake Como is a safe destination for visitors, but it’s always important to take certain precautions and be aware of your surroundings. Here are some safety and practical tips for visiting Lake Como:
Lake Como is a large body of water and can be dangerous for inexperienced swimmers or those unfamiliar with the currents. It’s recommended to swim only in designated swimming areas, follow posted rules and regulations, and never swim alone. Boaters should also be aware of the lake’s speed limits and navigation rules.
The sun can be strong in Lake Como, especially during the summer months. It’s recommended to wear sunscreen, a hat, and sunglasses, and to seek shade during the hottest parts of the day. It’s also important to stay hydrated and drink plenty of water.
Driving and Parking
Driving around Lake Como can be challenging, with narrow and winding roads and limited parking options in some areas. It’s recommended to rent a smaller car, follow posted speed limits, and be aware of local traffic rules. It’s also important to park only in designated parking areas and not to park illegally, as fines can be steep.
Pickpocketing and Theft
As with any tourist destination, pickpocketing and theft can occur in Lake Como. It’s recommended to keep valuables, including passports and money, in a secure location, and to be aware of your surroundings in crowded areas. It’s also recommended to avoid leaving valuables unattended in cars or on the beach.
Lake Como can experience sudden changes in weather, especially during the shoulder seasons. It’s recommended to check the weather forecast before heading out and to be prepared for rain or cooler temperatures with appropriate clothing and footwear.
These are just a few safety and practical tips to keep in mind when visiting Lake Como. By following these guidelines and using common sense, you can enjoy a safe and memorable visit to this beautiful destination.
Q: What is the best time of year to visit Lake Como?
A: The best time to visit Lake Como depends on your preferences and interests. Summer (June to August) is the peak tourist season with warm temperatures and long days perfect for outdoor activities. Spring (March to May) and autumn (September to November) offer milder temperatures and fewer crowds. Winter (December to February) is the quietest time of year but has a certain charm with Christmas markets and winter sports.
Q: What are the best things to do in Lake Como?
A: Lake Como offers a range of activities for visitors, including exploring charming towns and villages, taking in the natural beauty of the lake and surrounding mountains, enjoying water sports, hiking, and visiting historic villas and gardens.
Q: What is the currency used in Lake Como?
A: The currency used in Lake Como, as in the rest of Italy, is the Euro.
Q: What is the time zone in Lake Como?
A: Lake Como is in the Central European Time (CET) zone, which is one hour ahead of Coordinated Universal Time (UTC+1).
Q: What is the official language in Lake Como?
A: The official language of Lake Como, as in the rest of Italy, is Italian. However, English is widely spoken in tourist areas and many locals speak some level of English as well.
Q: How do I get around Lake Como?
A: Lake Como can be easily navigated by car, bus, or boat. The towns and villages around the lake are well-connected by a network of local buses, and several ferry companies operate boat services between the towns and villages around the lake.
Q: Is Lake Como a safe destination
A: Yes, Lake Como is a safe destination for visitors. However, as with any tourist destination, it’s important to take certain precautions, such as keeping valuables secure and being aware of your surroundings.
Q: What is the cuisine like in Lake Como?
A: The cuisine in Lake Como is influenced by both Italian and Swiss culinary traditions. Some of the most popular dishes include lake fish, risotto, and polenta, as well as local cheeses and wines.
Q: Are credit cards widely accepted in Lake Como?
A: Credit cards are widely accepted in Lake Como, especially in tourist areas. However, it’s always a good idea to carry some cash with you as well.
In conclusion, a day trip or longer stay in Lake Como offers a variety of experiences for visitors. From exploring charming towns and villages to taking in the natural beauty of the lake and surrounding mountains, enjoying water sports, hiking, visiting historic villas and gardens, and experiencing the vibrant nightlife, there is something for everyone in this picturesque destination.
Remember to take precautions when swimming and boating, protect yourself from the sun, drive carefully, and be aware of pickpocketing and theft. Follow these safety and practical tips, and you’ll have a safe and memorable visit to Lake Como.
With its stunning scenery, rich history, and diverse activities, Lake Como is truly a must-visit destination. Whether you’re looking for a romantic getaway, a family vacation, or a solo adventure, Lake Como will not disappoint.